Bankruptcies Reach Record High

"You'll probably find that 80 percent are no asset cases," says G. Ray Warner, professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and scholar-in-residence at the American Bankruptcy Institute in Alexandria, Va.

"Most people that are filing these [no asset cases] are very poor," he says. "They have some clothing, they have some furniture. They may have a car but they only have $500 of equity in it. They probably don't have a house at all."

Another contributing factor is that the stigma of filing for bankruptcy seems to have decreased over the years, says Skeel. Although bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and can hinder your ability to get new credit or insurance, Skeel says there are many companies willing to extend credit to someone who's filed for bankruptcy, often at rates not much higher than the norm.

"It used to be that it would be years before you could get credit," says Skeel. "That's not the reality any more."

Laskowski agrees: "It was an expensive lesson, but life goes on."

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